1999 was a rough year for me, and I’m not just talking about the release of The Phantom Menace. HA! No, seriously. I was working a full time job while also trying to get my own business off the ground, and living in a shitty apartment with a difficult roommate. My downtime consisted of weekends playing games on my computer, which was propped up in the corner of my mostly unfurnished bedroom on a computer table made out of plastic totes and a wooden board. My PC was one of the few things of value that I owned that wasn’t in storage and it was my only means of escaping my dreary surroundings. Thank god, Half-Life came out when it did, because I was able to lose myself in it. It was the only thing that I looked forward to when I got home from work and playing it got me through a tough time. So, besides being such a mind-blowingly influential game for its time, it’ll always be extra special to me. Why did I gas on about all this in the intro? Because sometimes I like to point out that some of these bits of plastic that I collect do indeed have special meaning to me.
And here comes NECA giving the intrepid Gordon Freeman the action figure treatment. This is actually a re-issue of their original figure, and as you can see from the packaged shot, he’s based off of Gordon in Half-Life 2, a great game to be sure, but one that doesn’t instill as many strong memories for me as the first one does. Indeed, I’m drawing a blank on most of what happens in it and seriously considering giving it another play-through. So, yes, I would have rather had a new figure from the original game, but I’ll happily take this one as a consolation prize. And hell, it’s still amazing to me just how iconic Gordon Freeman has become despite him starring in a First-Person Shooter where you hardly ever see him. Anyway… enough about the games, let’s get this figure open and check him out!
Gordon comes wearing his trusty Black Mesa HEV (Hostile Environment) Suit. It’s still totally recognizable as the iconic suit from the original game, which was a Mark IV, but with some notable changes (both cosmetic and functional), upgrading it to a Mark V. Suffice it to say, NECA did an amazing job recreating the suit in 7-inch scale plastic form. Despite being all cast as part of the buck, it has a convincing layered look to its construction. The mesh under-suit can be seen between the armor pieces on the arms and legs, and it’s sculpted to have a very fine chain-mail-like texture. The armor plates feature various cut lines and the lambda logo on his chest is actually sculpted as well as painted.
The suit’s deco is darker and less polished looking than the Mark IV he wore at Dark Mesa, but it definitely fits the darker and dystopian feel of the second game. There’s less orange, but still enough to keep the sense of connection to the older suit. Most of it is done in matte colors, but you do get a little gloss on the red panels on the leg armor. I really like what NECA did with the finish on the shoulder armor as it has a cool unfinished metal patina to it. It really invokes an old medieval suit of armor feel to it, which again meshes well with the feel of the sequel. You get more of that rough metal finish to the armor pieces on the arm, only much darker. I especially like the hint of red padding that can be seen picking through the shoulder sockets. Finally, NECA did some nice weathering in both the sculpt and paint, including some scratching and scarring on the orange plates. This is a well-worn suit that shows off the wear-and-tear of Gordon’s adventures.
The portrait is excellent. This is definitely the slightly gruffer Gordon from HL2, but he hasn’t changed that much. He still sports the clean haircut and the neatly trimmed goatee. One of Gordon’s most iconic features has always been his nerd glasses and they are extremely well done here. Glasses on figures often come off as too large or bulky, but these are perfect. They’re cast in a separate piece, permanently attached to the head, and feature actual lenses. There’s a little bit of spray from the hair on his forehead, but it’s nothing too bad and looks more like dirt than anything else.
The articulation here is pretty solid, although a few of the points are a bit unconventional. The arms feature rotating hinges in the shoulders and elbows, with the wrists attached using ball joints to allow the hands to swap out with his two additional accessory-holding hands. The torso features a ball joint under the chest and another set deep in the base of the neck. The odd bit I was referring to earlier are the hips, which feature pins running from the front and back to form a rotating hinge. They work fine, but they still always look weird to me, and these certainly do their part to identify Gordon as the reissue of an earlier release. Finally, the legs feature rotating hinges in the knees and ankles, and swivels in the thighs. Let’s move on to accessories!
Let’s face it, Gordon Freeman and his crowbar go together like King Arthur and Excalibur. Whether I was busting apart crates or putting the beat-down on head crabs, this trusty tool was always by my side. It’s not just an implement and a melee weapon, but it’s a symbol that Gordon Freeman is the average schlub turned action hero. Well, assuming your average schlub has a Ph.D in theoretical physics from MIT. Anyway, the crowbar is… well, it’s a crowbar. It’s an essential accessory, it sure comes in handy when you run out of ammo, but there isn’t a lot to say about it as an accessory. It has a nice weathered finish and you can see some of the red paint that’s been worn off of the handle. The right hand that comes on the figure can grip it nice and tight.
More interesting, and more central to HL2 is the Zero Point Energy Field Manipulator and boy is that a mouthful! The Manipulator was created as a lifting tool, but it has the power to hurl heavy objects at enemies, which allows it to be classified as a pretty deadly weapon. Gordon’s second set of hands are designed specifically to hold the Manipulator and they do the job perfectly. This is a great looking piece with a lot of attention to detail, although I would advise caution when dealing with the mandibles at the end of the device as they appear to be frail. I’ll likely wind up keeping the box for Gordon, because I don’t want to risk bagging that accessory and having those mandibles wind up breaking or warping.
And Gordon also comes with a Pheropod, which he could use in the game to summon the Antlions to attack his targets. It’s a well-sculpted little ball that fits into one of Gordon’s left hands. A cool addition to be sure!
Finally, Gordon comes with a headcrab, which to me remains the all-time best copy of the Alien facehugger. These things were so damn annoying in the game and were equally creepy when you saw them attach themselves to unfortunate Black Mesa scientists and convert them into unwilling zombies. They kind of look like mutant roasted turkeys, and NECA did a fine job on this little static figure. From the blue veins that run under their golden roasted turkey skin to the unsettling orifice underneath that is meant to wrap around a person’s head and basically turn them into a bipedal murder vehicle. Ugh, it’s really disgusting inside that thing!
As grateful as I am to NECA for re-releasing this fantastic figure, I’m actually quite surprised they did. Sure, the prospect of a coveted Half-Life 3 is forever lurking in the dark corners of the PC Gaming community, but it’s been a long time since Half-Life 2 and sadly Gordon Freeman isn’t the household name he used to be. And as great as this figure is, I think this may be one of those figures where you really have to be centered on the character to appreciate how great it is. But for me, Gordon Freeman is monumental in his importance. He introduced the idea of the everyman protagonist to video games, which in turn made it easy for me to identify and put myself into the game. But most of all, he’ll always be a cherished character who was a symbol of relief in a rather rough year of my life, and I’m very happy to be able to add this figure to my shelf. I was on the fence over picking up their Chell reissue from Portal 2, but now I’m thinking I may go ahead and pick her up too.